Perhaps word got out that I was a soft touch. But they kept coming back, fingering the toys, eyes scanning the tables, watching me for weakness, ready to pounce. Like wild animals.
I was running the Pre-Loved stall for the Kindy fete. It had never been my intention to volunteer as a co-ordinator, but they say sometimes it is good to find oneself outside your comfort zone. Let's be clear - I hate selling things. I hate asking for money, even for a good cause, and so the prospect of selling other people's unwanted junk for 3 hours on a hot Sunday morning did not exactly fill me with joy.
Not only was I selling other people's unwanted junk, but I was selling plenty of my own. For weeks I had been siphoning off excess toys and games in some desperate attempt to gain control over all the Other Stuff going on in my life.
I should have known that selling 30 year old, probably collectible toys, for $1 is not the quickest way to a good night's sleep. Shall we talk about regret for a while?
I should have known that no matter how much of my own junk I sold, it was inevitable I would return home with a bag full of someone else's junk. Shall we talk about OCD for a while?
I had spent the better part of three or four weeks collecting, sorting and pricing stuffed toys, puzzles, games, clothing and assorted bits and bobs that ranged from a crappy frisbee that obviously came free with a Red Rooster Kids meals to a brand new, still-in-the-box baby's activity table (RRP $35.59).
My instructions were clear, this stall is for the kids who show up with their proverbial pennies, so price things from 50c to $2. And that's what I did? Enormous stuffed toys, many brand new? $1. A handful of small stuffed toys? Give me 50c. That huge bag of clothes and shoes? Let's say $5.
I sold a beautiful, giant teddy bear to a small girl for all the money she had (20c) on the condition she gave it a good name ('Chocolate') and a loving home.
I sold my 1984 Australian Olympic team mascot (Willy the Koala) to a small child for $1, at the same time giving him a lecture on antiques and preserving our heritage.
[Sidenote, panicking that I had inadvertently sold a valuable antique I have just checked eBay to see if Willy the Koala toys are currently worth hundreds of dollars. They're not, and someone in Qld is trying to offload one for $20 with no success. Phew.]
I don't know if it was the look of joy in the child's eyes upon finding a great new toy, or the joy of the parents discovering it was only $1 that was more rewarding. So many parents went from telling their children 'No, we have already spent enough this morning' to 'Sure, see what else you can find'.
My enthusiasm for getting rid of toys waned during the morning, and I saw the sad faces of my childhood staring up at me from a box. Damn Toy Story III and their self-righteous jab at people who abandon toys.
One by one, many of my toys were rescued from the table and hidden surreptitiously in my bag.
So, was it worth it? What grand sum of money did I raise with my three or four weeks of hard work, temporarily losing my lounge room floor, selling my childhood, stealing from my own children...
Just over $230. Of 10 stalls I made the very least.
Next year, I think I might just give them the $230 and chuck everything in the skip.